By Duncan Mlanjira
Football Association of Malawi (FAM) president Walter Nyamilandu Malawi has described former South African international Phil Masinga, who died on Sunday, January 13 after a long illness, as the best target striker Bafana Bafana ever had.
Nyamilandu, himself a former Malawian international defender, played against Masinga’s Bafana Bafana side in 1996 during the 1998 FIFA World Cup qualifiers at Kamuzu Stadium in Blantyre before the second leg in South Africa in which the Flames lost 1-4 on aggregate.
“Phil was a legend,” Nyamilandu said. “He was the best target striker Bafana ever had. He was the toughest opponent I faced. Memories are still fresh in me of the World Cup preliminary match against Bafana in 1996 at Kamuzu Stadium.”
The World Cup match at Kamuzu Stadium attracted a mammoth crowd after the Bafana Bafana had won their first-ever Africa Cup of Nations which they hosted in 1996.
They brought stars like Mark Fish, Lucas Radebe, Mark Williams, Linda Buthelezi, Andre Arendse, Doctor Khumalo, Sizwe Montaung among others who made a name for themselves during the 1996 AFCON finals.
By then Masinga was playing for Leeds United together with his compatriot Lucas Radebe when the club was in the top flight English Premier League. Prior to Leeds Masinga also had spells at St Gallen in Switzerland and Italian clubs Salernitana and Bari.
The Flames then had stars such as Ernest Mtawali, Chauncy Gondwe, Hendrix Banda, Navigaror Dzinkambani, Patrick Mabedi, Albert Mpinganjira and others.
Mtawali, who also played alongside Masinga in South Africa, said: “Phil was one of the best strikers I played with and a humble and great human being who wanted everybody to succeed in whatever they were doing. I will miss him as he was my best friend as well may his soul rest in peace.”
South Africa Football Association president Danny Jordaan said: “This is a sad day for South African football. [Masinga was] a loyal servant of the game, on and off the field of play.”
Fellow African legend, Zambian Kalusha Bwalya wrote on Twitter: “My heart is deeply saddened by the loss of my former opponent, my gallant colleague and African football legend Phil Masinga. Gone too soon. Rest In Peace my brother.”
Former Malawian football star, Harry Msiska, now a national darts team player, said: “I will remember Phil as one of the players who was a role model to many African kids not only in South Africa but Africa as the whole.
“He is one of those black players who made grades in football despite aphatheid in RSA. My memory of him is when Malawi played Bafana Bafana for the first time in Blantyre and I used to watch him when he was at Leeds United.”
According to Wikipedia, he grew up playing for Jomo Cosmos before joining South African major league side Mamelodi Sundowns which was the springboard for his stint for England side Leeds United in a package deal with Lucas Radebe.
In 2000, a return to English Football with Coventry City fell through after he failed to secure a work permit.
After winning the African Cup of Nations on home soil, Bafana Bafana failed to defend the title in 1998 in Burkina Faso after losing to Egypt in the final but ‘Chippa’, as he was affectionately known, scored the decisive goal in the 1997 game against the Republic of the Congo that took South Africa to the 1998 World Cup in France, their first-ever appearance.
Masinga made his debut for South Africa in July 1992 against Cameroon in his country’s first match following readmission to international football by Fifa after the end of Apartheid.
Masinga’s former team-mate at Leeds, Noel Whelan wrote on Twitter: “Really sad news to learn that a guy I spent so much time with, laughs and games together has passed away. He was not just a friend and strike partner but one of the nicest kindest guys I’ve met. It was a pleasure and privilege to have know and played with you Phil, always in my heart.”
In 2014, Masinga, in the company of Mark Fish, visited Malawi to play in a charity event — the Special Olympics Unified match at the Civo Stadium, which was a curtain raiser of the first ever African Leaders Forum on Disability which Malawi hosted at the Bingu International Conference Centre at the initiative of former President Joyce Banda.